When Delegating Leads to More Stress

June 17, 2014

by Beverly Flaxington

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

I hired an executive coach who told me to focus on my strengths and delegate other tasks. I’m not a good people person when it comes to staff, so I have been trying to delegate more of human-resources responsibilities to my operations manager. However, my operations manager has made two poor hires in the last six months. In one case, a person quit after three weeks of training, and in another, we had to fire the person within three months for poor attendance. I can’t delegate if I can’t ensure that things are done well. It is costly to my overall business. I’m inclined to take back these responsibilities unless you tell me otherwise.

William S

Dear William,

Let’s start with the positives – you paid the coach, are taking the advice and seem focused on making better decisions for your firm. And your operations manager has willingly (albeit, not as effectively as you’d like) taken on the responsibility you’ve given her. That’s all good news!

Before you revert to taking these responsibilities back, perhaps there is a middle ground. I agree that you cannot afford to continue with the status quo, but maybe you have delegated too much, too quickly. We often make the mistake of thinking others have the same level of information and aptitude that we have and expect them to behave in a similar way just because we ask. Your operations manager may never have hired people before, or she may not be as clear on the requirements for new hires or she may be uncomfortable expressing a concern if she thinks others in your firm want to hire someone.

I suggest working with her before the next hire to create a process for hiring. Even in the smallest firm, a hiring process helps to avoid common mistakes. You can:

  1. Help to ensure the role is clearly defined and she (and you) know exactly what you are hiring for and what qualities you need in a person.
  2. Create an interview process with pre-arranged questions and areas of focus for each interviewer in the process.
  3. Have an organized way for interviewers to meet together to discuss their findings and allow the operations manager to hear the feedback.
  4. Insist the operations manager check three to five references and probe for any past strengths and weaknesses relative to your needs of the role you are filling.
  5. Be clear on compensation and arrange everything in writing in advance.
  6. Have an on-boarding program to integrate new staff.

You may tell me that you have all of this in place, but we see very few firms that actually have a clear, written and disseminated process. If you were to work with your operations manager to put this in place, it would give you a chance to talk about what went wrong in the past. If you have more expertise in interviewing or working with candidates than she does, it might behoove you to do some joint interviews so the operations manager can learn from you. The delegation you are doing, while good in intention, sounds a bit too quick and dramatic. Perhaps working with her more closely for some time would be in everyone’s best interest.

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